Crime May Slow Where Cannabis Flows

By Benjie Cooper

IG: @nuglifenews

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If you live in the United States, you stand a good chance of residing in a state where cannabis is legal; medicinally, recreationally, or both. But even in places where the laws of the land allow for regulated access to marijuana, the subject of crime rates continues to be an ever-present concern.

Due to its criminalized history, there is naturally a long-standing association between marijuana and crime, which can sometimes be violent. But this link has more to do with the cannabis plant’s illegal status itself than it does with any perceived risk associated with its cultivation, sale, or consumption alone.

You wouldn’t give it a second thought when selecting a head of lettuce from the produce section at the market, but if it was illegal to own lettuce, buying it from the black market could land you behind bars. Some people might even want to steal your lettuce or hurt you to get it.

Black market sales are by definition illegal and are not subject to any hard rules as far as their business is concerned. This factor can create an increased risk when it comes to the production, transportation, and sale of any product that holds an illegal status. Transactions can be subject to unsafe environments and encounters, depending on the situation.

These types of portrayals of cannabis dealers and related scenarios are obviously not always accurate or correct in every case. Still, the notion that the licensing of medicinal cannabis dispensaries will result in increased crime rates is a continued topic of concern at city council meetings and other relevant venues when the issue of local retail marijuana establishments comes up.

But there needs to be a distinction made between black market cannabis and that product which people obtain from legal, licensed dispensaries. Even many of the co-ops operating under Prop 215 that still don’t have a license from the city they’re in employ security guards and use things like man-traps to protect themselves and their patients.

Crime is a risk carried by virtually every type of business known to man, but one that can be lessened when companies are allowed to operate on the same legal grid as everyone else.

Personnel at Haverford College’s Department of Economics in Pennsylvania conducted a study in 2017 examining the relationship between the size of the medical cannabis market and crime. Using medical marijuana patient registration rates from 1995 to 2015 and a “difference-in-differences” approach, researcher Matthew Incantalupo found that a “one percent increase in medical marijuana registration rates decreases murder and robbery rates by 0.03% and 0.02% respectively, and has no significant effect on other types of crime.”

This study comes at a time when citizen support for cannabis legalization is at an all-time high in the United States. Results from a Gallup poll published on October 25, 2017 show that 64% of Americans believe that marijuana should be made legal. That percentage is up from 60% in 2016, and 50% in 2011. When the organization initially began asking the question in 1969, only 12% indicated support for people being allowed to use cannabis.

In a study published on March 26, 2014, a criminology professor at the University of Texas at Dallas reported that cannabis legalization appeared to be associated with a reduction in violent crimes such as homicide and assault. Associate professor and lead author of the study, Dr. Robert Morris analyzed crime rates across the United States from 1990 to 2006 when eleven states legalized medicinal cannabis. He found “no increase in crime rates resulting from marijuana legalization. In fact, we found some evidence of decreasing rates of some types of violent crime, namely homicide and assault.”

Morris explained that “We’re cautious about saying medical marijuana definitely reduces homicide. It takes away the subjective comments about the link between marijuana laws and crime so the dialogue can be more in tune with reality.”

Through propaganda and other means, the same myths about cannabis have continued for decades. But we now live in an age of information where those age-old untruths and misconceptions are crumbling at an increasing rate across the globe. In October, Peru joined the growing number of marijuana-progressive countries in Central and South America as their Congress approved a measure to legalize medicinal cannabis.

As the list of locations where marijuana is legal grows steadily longer, study data suggests that in populations where pro-cannabis legislation has been adopted, they tend to see a reduction in violent crime and not an increase as some might be inclined to think. City councils, lawmakers, citizens and others can take this into consideration when deciding whether or not to allow legal cannabis into their town.